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Myanmar priest reflects on the why people go hungry

Food distribution to a needy family in time of pandemic and civil political crisis in Myanmar’s Lashio Diocese.

Father Peter Kyi Mg shares the plight of people in Myanmar on the occasion of the World Food Day celebrated on October 16.

The world celebrates "WORLD FOOD DAY" on October 16. I would like to share with you about my country and my concern for our hungry brothers and sisters in the world.

Food is a basic need, and at the same time, every human being has the right to eat. But, millions of people cannot enjoy even their basic rights – they go to bed hungry.

One day I visited a family. It was lunchtime when I arrived. They were praying before the meal. Father of the family said a prayer, "Thank you, Lord, we have food for today, there are many people who have no food to eat, give us a generous heart, so that we may be able to share with our hungry brothers and sisters, Amen."

Simple and short prayer. But it reminds me of our hungry brothers and sisters. Think of yourself that if you do not worry about food, you are lucky. According to the World Food Programme, we need to be aware that there are 690 million people around the world who will go to bed on an empty stomach. There are millions of people struggling for daily food.

Can you imagine a child crying for food out of hunger? Are you having a stone heart? Even animals feed their children. Why can human beings not share with each other? Why do people go hungry? What are the causes of hunger?

I was curious and wanted to know more about our hungry brothers and sisters.  So I looked for a reasonable cause for hunger. I looked at the situation of my country, Myanmar (Burma), and I found three major reasons for hunger: poverty, conflict, and weather.

Hunger is strongly interconnected with poverty, and it involves interactions among an array of social, political, demographic, and societal factors. People living in poverty frequently face household food insecurity, use inappropriate care practices, and live in unsafe environments that have low access to quality water, sanitation, and hygiene and inadequate access or availability to health services and education—all of which contribute to hunger.

Conflict is also a key driver of severe food crises, including famine. Hunger and undernutrition are worse when conflicts are prolonged and institutions are weakened.

Weather-related events, in part associated with climate change, have also impacted food availability in many countries and thus contributed to the rise of food insecurity. Economic downturns in countries dependent on agricultural and other primary-commodity export incomes have affected food availability and decreased people's ability to access food.

Myanmar is not like other countries because Myanmar has had the longest civil war for more than 70 years and is the poorest country in the world. Currently, Myanmar is suffering not only a global pandemic but also a cruel political crisis.

Myanmar has been under the thumb of army generals since the military coup in February 2021. But even before the coup, nearly 3 million Burmese were facing hunger.

The military coup is fueling the humanitarian crisis in the country as millions of people are likely to starve in the next six months. Over the next six months, the Food and Agriculture Organization says, "millions of people in Myanmar are expected to become hungry."

The UN is estimating that at least 6 million people could soon be affected by severe famine.

Therefore, hunger is rising across Myanmar among multiple crises: intercommunal violence, armed conflict, recurring natural disasters, job losses, spiraling food and fuel prices, civil unrest, violence, and displacement. More and more families, particularly those living in impoverished townships and urban areas, struggle to put even the most basic food on the table.

There may be many countries suffering, like Myanmar, but I am aware of my suffering country. There may be many people suffering like my country's fellow men.

In these incredibly dark hours, let us show our hungry brothers and sisters with our generous heart and hands that they are not forgotten in these dark hours to show solidarity is as essential as the care package.

I believe that you cannot neglect a hungry child. Let us have a generous heart and help our hungry brothers and sisters around us.

We may not be able to shine like the sun and moon, but we can shine like stars in the dark.

Because of me, at least one will not go hungry.

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